Rangers pitchers continue strong performance

ARLINGTON -- Historically maligned and often the franchise's punch-line, the starting rotation of the Texas Rangers continued to dazzle and dismay the American League on Thursday afternoon.

The homestand is over. Seven games at supposedly hitter-heaven Rangers Ballpark produced two shutouts and 52 scoreless innings.

With left-hander Derek Holland's seven-plus innings of dominating work Thursday, holding the Seattle Mariners to five hits and striking out eight in a 5-3 victory, Rangers starters lowered their collective ERA to 2.42.

The opening seven games produced six quality starts. The homestand included a run of 22-plus scoreless innings by the starting rotation and an expanse of 37-plus innings between allowing home runs.

"We know what we have," manager Ron Washington assessed. "As long as they're consistent, and as long as they can keep us in ballgames, good things will happen.

"We were aware they were capable of doing that. We just need them to go out and do it."

It was just four seasons ago that the ERA of Washington's pitching staff was 5.37.

The franchise's 2010 and 2011 World Series seasons saw the first dramatic shift in the Rangers' pitching prowess.

But the start of this season has trumped even that.

"Our pitching depth right now is pretty impressive," veteran Michael Young said. "It's fun to play behind these guys, especially the young guys, who seem to have taken it upon themselves to get better every time they get out there.

"They all not only want to be big league pitchers, but they also want to be impact big league pitchers. There's a big difference. They don't just want to settle into a rotation. They want to get out and put up big numbers and dominate."

In the seven home games just concluded, the Rangers allowed, in order, 2, 4, 0, 5, 0, 4 and 3 runs.

Holland did not walk a batter in his 71/3 innings and only faced two Mariners with a runner in scoring position.

The hitting catalyst was Young, who singled twice and homered, driving in four of the Rangers' five runs. Second baseman Ian Kinsler also had three hits and sparked what turned out to be an important two-run seventh inning with a run-scoring double.

They finished the day with a team batting average of .257, meek by recent franchise standards.

"But we pitched really well and we played really good defense," Young said. "Those are things that tend to fly under the radar with this team. But they're kind of like the stable parts of our team now."

The hitting will come, the team captain said.

"It takes a little time for your team to catch fire offensively," Young said.

Reliever Koji Uehara got the final two outs in the eighth inning for Holland, and Mike Adams snuffed a brief Seattle rally to close out the ninth.

Among AL pitching staffs, only the Kansas City Royals (2.39 ERA) are off to a better start.

"It's execution of their pitches and their commitment to them," Washington said. "All the things that Mike [Maddux] and Andy [Hawkins] talk about, they've come out of spring training doing them."

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram